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Protecting your personal information on the Companies House register

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Changes to UK company law, Company guidance

As part of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, the government will introduce measures to prevent abuse of personal information held on the Companies House register.

One of the key principles of corporate transparency is that individuals running companies should register certain details so they can be held accountable for the running of their company. However, we know that publishing this personal information in the public domain can lead to the risk of fraud, identity theft or other harm. One of the aims of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill is to balance the need for corporate transparency with the understanding that personal information should only be published when it’s necessary and proportionate to do so. We want to make sure the register does not become a tool for abuse of personal information. 

Suppression of personal information 

Currently, individuals can apply to suppress their residential address if it’s shown as their service address. Under the new measures, individuals will also be able to apply to suppress the following information from historical documents once secondary legislation is made:

  • residential addresses in most instances when shown elsewhere on the register (for example, when used as a registered office address)
  • day of birth for documents registered before 10 October 2015 (only the month and year of birth have been publicly displayed since 10 October 2015)
  • signatures
  • business occupation

Suppression will be automatic on application. You will not need to supply any evidence.

Protection of personal information because of risk of harm 

We’re also improving the protection regime so that individuals at personal risk of physical harm or violence as a result of their personal information being on our public registers (for example, domestic abuse survivors) can apply to have their information protected from public view. The application process will be set out in secondary legislation, but we expect that people will need to provide evidence before their information is protected – such as supporting correspondence from the police or a charity caseworker.

The information that can be protected from public view includes:

  • name (or previous names)
  • sensitive addresses where public disclosure puts its residents at risk (for example, a women’s domestic abuse refuge)
  • in the most serious cases, all other details, for example, service address and partial date of birth

The application process 

Any applications made under any of the above measures will be subject to a fee.

There’ll be some circumstances where we will not suppress information unless alternative information is given beforehand. For example, a current registered office address will only be suppressed if an alternative address is provided. Another example is when an individual has changed their name because of being at risk of harm. We'll only protect the previous name once a new name has been given.

We expect the new measures to be open to any individual from any company or other entity whose personal information appears on our registers. The individual will be responsible for identifying where their personal information is displayed on the register (or registers).

We’ll put safeguards in place to make sure these new measures are not abused. We’ll be able to ask for more details before suppressing information, for example, if we believe the application is for the suppression of a business address rather than a residential address. If we find out that the original application contained false or misleading information, we’ll have the power to revoke any protection granted.

Access to suppressed information 

Any information suppressed under the new measures will still be available to law enforcement agencies. Some of the measures in the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill will give Companies House greater data-sharing powers, which means we’ll be able to proactively share any suppressed and protected information with law enforcement agencies if deemed proportionate and necessary.

We expect that some information (for example, suppressed registered office addresses) will be made available in certain other circumstances, such as if they’re needed for prospective legal proceedings or if a public interest application is made to the court. These circumstances will be fully set out in secondary legislation.

These measures will all need secondary legislation and system development before they’re implemented. We do not have a timeframe for the implementation of these measures yet, but we’ll keep you updated on our channels.

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  1. Comment by HEATHER Butcher posted on

    Great against frauds or scams

  2. Comment by L K posted on

    Please advise the link and fee so we can all send the forms in.

  3. Comment by John B posted on

    About time. The blog states 'We want to make sure the register does not become a tool for abuse of personal information' - too late, it already is, and has been one of the main sources of identity fraud in the UK for years, with it being all too easy to harvest people's full name, home address, date of birth and even signature from those old scanned versions of filings documents. Don't get me wrong, though, I fully support this, it's just a pity it wasn't done much, much sooner.

    • Replies to John B>

      Comment by CW posted on

      It was too late the moment Companies House first put all that personal data into the public domain - at a time when all other government departments and public bodies were already encouraging people to protect their data!

      There doesn't seem to have been an apology, or even any acknowledgement, from Companies House that they chose to put people at risk of fraud and identity theft in the first place by failing to redact the old paper filing forms before publishing them, so the information was protected to the same extent as that sent via more recent electronically submitted forms.

      Like John B, I support this measure, but it has the feel of 'shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted'.

  4. Comment by Paul F posted on

    About time!

  5. Comment by Stephanie Trotter, OBE posted on

    I'm concerned about the suppression of personal addresses of company directors because I'm a safety campaigner.

    In the past, having been fobbed off about a life and death safety issue by the company's PR fobbing off machine, I've had to resort to sending a letter to each company director by special delivery at their home address. Such a letter must written in the correct way, for example:-
    ‘Dear Sir,
    If you don't take measures to stop your ferries leaving the port with the roll on roll off doors open and, as a consequence the ferry sinks and kills people, you as a company director could be charged and found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence.'
    Of course, all the company directors need to do to get out of such a charge, even if tragedy strikes, is to send a similar letter and instructions to their ferry captains, but that action would hopefully prevent a tragedy.

    Would an authority like HSE do this? I hope so, but in my experience even if the HSE can be persuaded to write such a letter, the tragedy might already have happened before the authorities get around to doing this.

    Please note this is an example, not the letter I and others have had to write.

    I'd be happy to use a name and address that assures me that all the directors will receive my letter the following day or two at most, and I obtain an official receipt that they have all received it. But please don't rely on the authorities - they won't act in time and probably won’t act at all.

    I still have reservations – what if those employees of this ‘postal’ service were ill or on strike?

    Maybe nobody has thought about the unintended consequences of not being able to contact quickly those running the company with the power to change a life and death issue.

    Most company directors won't be or feel threatened. If they are then maybe the balance shifts but I don't think all company directors should be inaccessible.

    • Replies to Stephanie Trotter, OBE>

      Comment by Amy Soullier - Digital Content Manager posted on

      One of the aims of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill is to balance the need for corporate transparency with the understanding that personal information should only be published when it’s necessary and proportionate to do so. For the vast majority of directors, the information that’s publicly available will stay the same, except for the director’s business occupation as the requirement to provide this will be removed. Information will only be suppressed from public view if applicants meet the criteria set out in the regulations. Also, any information suppressed under the new measures will still be available to law enforcement agencies.

  6. Comment by Clive B posted on

    Why is a 'business occupation' sensitive information? Isn't it relevant in determining a director's capacity to manage a company's affairs.

    What is far more sensitive information is a micro-company's turnover and profit, which usually represents the owner's income. This is now to be disclosed to satisfy the demands of credit reference companies. Their needs (profits) clearly outweigh respect for private information, which makes a mockery of any claim to be protecting it.

    • Replies to Clive B>

      Comment by Amy Soullier - Digital Content Manager posted on

      Some business occupations on the register potentially put people at risk due to the nature of their occupation appearing publicly, such as police officers and social workers. Even though everyone will be able to apply to suppress a business occupation, we envisage the measure will mainly be used by those where their occupation puts them at risk of harm. As part of the wider reforms, the requirement for directors to provide their business occupation will be removed.
      During our consultations ahead of the Bill being introduced, we received a number of strong responses on the requirement for micro-entities and small companies to file a profit and loss account. This information will help protect creditors and consumers and reduce the risk of fraud. The public disclosure of information is a requirement for all companies, given in return for the protection of limited liability. The detail and format of the profit and loss account, and what information should be made public, will be set out in secondary legislation which is being developed in consultation with business and accountancy groups.

  7. Comment by Ljp posted on

    I work from home so the Companies registered address to my residential address stays the same open on the register?

    • Replies to Ljp>

      Comment by Amy Soullier - Digital Content Manager posted on

      The Companies Act requires companies to have a registered office address where any official correspondence can be delivered. This requirement is not going to change as a result of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill. The registered office address does not have to be the address where the company is based or trades from. For example, many companies use the address of their representatives (such as their accountants) or a company service provider. These new measures will also allow for the suppression of a residential address if it’s no longer the current registered office address of a company.

  8. Comment by S P posted on

    Long overdue. Here's hoping that the fee is set at a reasonable level though

  9. Comment by posted on

    This is very good idea to prevent fraudsters from harming innocent people.

  10. Comment by HT posted on

    As per LK, please share a link to the form.

  11. Comment by Stephanie Trotter, OBE posted on

    There is a balance to be struck here - I do appreciate this.

    But how would I now raise a matter of life and death with the company directors if their addresses are NOT obtainable from Companies House? This I've done only after letters and/or emails have been ignored in practical terms by the directors' many minions.

    The answer given to my point about needing the directors' names and home addresses is that they will still be available to law enforcement agencies. So I take this to mean that as someone who has spotted an acute and immediate danger to life will now have to convince, say a policeman or member of HSE, that there is such a danger to life.
    The first obvious problem is the delay this will cause.

    The second is that I know from experience that most people are quite casual and unconvinced about dangers that later prove to be lethal e.g. The Herald of Free Enterprise. I appreciate that some people are harassed and that that is terrible for them. But there must be a way to ensure proof of delivery of an immediate, acute danger to company directors with the power to deal with it.

    From my experience of lobbying, sadly I have little faith in enforcement agencies acting at all, let alone quickly in time to save people.

    Please could Companies House take my concerns seriously and find a way of resolving this conflict? For example, couldn't Companies House set up a mechanism, ideally automatic by email and text, which allowed someone to raise such an issue and ask for it to be immediately relayed by email and text to all the company directors? Provided receipt was provable this would ensure that the job of alerting the company directors was done.I do see this might be abused but otherwise company directors will simply plead that they didn't know.

    Stephanie Trotter, OBE

    There is a brilliant Evans Cartoon showing this. I can't seem to paste it here. If you email me I'll send it to you.